By Ken May
I am asked this question all of the time. People receive a traffic violation and want to know how to have it removed from their driving record or how much more they will pay on their auto insurance.
So what is the first thing I tell them?
We always recommend that they attend traffic school. You are allowed to attend traffic school one time every 18 months and doing so will remove a minor violation from your driving record. Over 90% of traffic school is conducted online at your own pace. I always recommend that you personally take the course for a couple of reasons. First, it is unlawful to have somebody else take the class for you (it’s called fraud). Second, you may actually learn something. Obviously you weren’t able to avoid getting the ticket in the first place so it wouldn’t hurt to absorb what the class is teaching.
The most important thing that I tell people in regards to traffic school is to follow up to be sure that the traffic school properly notified the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the completion of the class. It’s amazing how often people take the class but call me upset because the ticket still appears on their driving record and their rate increased.
“Does the kind of ticket I received matter”?
In California, most minor violations are treated the same and charged the same by the insurance companies. Some minor violations are not even charged against you by insurance carriers such as using a cell phone while driving. This is rapidly changing however as the accident rate soars, especially among young drivers. “Hands free” tickets are now being charged just like all other minor violations.
Major violations on the other hand are treated much more harshly. Major violations include drunk driving, reckless driving, eluding a police officer, etc. These violations are the point equivalent of receiving 4 minor violations and you can bet that your 20% good driver discount will be taken away for at least three years. Prior law stated that if you received a drunk driving violation, you would lose your good driver discount for 7 years but that has been increased to 10 years as the result of a law sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (M.A.D.D).
“My DUI was reduced to a wet reckless. Does this help me at all?"
This absolutely does help. Though the point charge is the same as a DUI, after 3 years, you could be eligible for your 20% good driver discount once again.
“I received a Careless Driving ticket when I lived in another state. Is this the same as a major violation?”
No, careless driving tickets are not punished as harshly as a major violation. They are usually charged more harshly than a minor violation though. A careless driving violation is considered to be an “intermediate violation” and is essentially the same as receiving two speeding tickets. But, this can vary from carrier to carrier.
“So, unless I can go to traffic school to have the ticket removed from my driving record, it will make my insurance premium go up. How bad will it be?"
Different companies charge for violations differently than others. That’s why we re-shop every auto insurance renewal at Ken May Insurance Services. The trend lately has been to charge more harshly for tickets and accidents than just a couple of years ago. Insurance companies are paying a lot more money to repair or replace cars that have been damaged so they are charging more for the people that haven’t been as responsible as those with nothing on their record. Where in the past, a speeding ticket might make a difference of about $60 per six months, now a single ticket is being charged more than double that amount. We did learn that Mercury Insurance is going to lessen how much they charge for an at-fault with injury accident. They feel that the client is already being punished a lot by the loss of his good driver discount.
One thing that you can be sure of: Things will always be changing. Insurance companies have the tendency to over-react and make drastic changes only to later modify some of the changes after they have gathered more data and sometimes due to market pressure. I like to call it the roller coaster effect.
If you would like to speak with a licensed agent about your auto insurance, please call our office at (760) 893-8055 or via email.